The Boston Celtics have gone from NBA championship favorites to a team in disarray almost overnight.

The Boston Celtics have gone from NBA championship favorites to a team in disarray almost overnight.

The Boston Celtics should be flying high heading into the 2022-23 season. After finishing within two wins of last year’s championship, they have been regarded as the favorites to win the 2023 title throughout the summer. Now, just as training camp is about to begin, they have become a team in disarray.

Ime Udoka’s one-year suspension for having what has been reported to be an inappropriate consensual and intimate relationship with a Celtics staffer (Celtics majority owner Wyc Grousbeck on Friday called it “a volume of violations”) has pulled the rug out from under the entire organization.

There has been a slow trickle of bad news for the Celtics over the past three weeks. Newly acquired Danilo Gallinari tore his anterior cruciate ligament. Earlier this week it was announced that Robert Williams III will undergo a second surgery on his left knee which will reportedly sideline him for four to six weeks, meaning he will start the season in street clothes. .

Williams tore the meniscus in this same knee at the end of last season and then battled through the pain in the playoffs, though he still missed seven postseason games. Is it possible that he did more damage playing with a knee that wasn’t fully healed? Will this latest “clean-up” procedure be the end, or will it continue to crop up for Williams, who has a long history of injuries in his short career?

Boston certainly hopes not. Williams is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate and a major weapon. He hits the offensive glass. He has the best skills of DeAndre Jordan, and don’t forget how amazing Jordan was with the Clippers.

On the back burner, does Jaylen Brown have any ill will toward the Celtics for throwing his name into the pot of trade rumors this summer? Brad Stevens has noted his open dialogue with Brown, who is certainly no stranger to trade talks. But you have to think that Brown would believe that he had reached a level in the organization where he could feel more secure in his position.

It is not a big thing. It’s just another of a host of possible paper cuts that have led to the open wound that is Udoka’s conduct and subsequent suspension. On Friday, Stevens, sitting next to Grousbeck at a news conference neither wanted to attend, made it official that Celtics assistant coach Joe Mazzulla would replace Udoka on an interim basis.

Mazzulla’s appointment comes with its own level of controversy. In 2009, Mazzulla was arrested and charged with domestic battery after allegedly grabbing a woman by her neck and strangling her in a bar when he was a college student and basketball player from West Virginia.

Stevens addressed those charges Friday, saying that Mazzulla is “110 percent responsible” for his past actions, but also that he, referring to Stevens, “believes[s] strongly that it probably shaped [Mazzulla] who he is today in a really good way.

I’m not here to be the morality police. Mazzulla resolved those situations legally. People can make mistakes and learn from them. But this will obviously, and rightly so, be a major talking point in the future. Optics matter. A team that is suspending a coach for misconduct with a woman is replacing him with another coach who allegedly strangled a woman.

You’ll always hear teams and players talk about being distraction-free, and the Celtics, already mired in a public relations mess, just added another one to their plate. They obviously think Mazzulla is worth the headache. Stevens spoke quite enthusiastically about his ability to “galvanize a room.”

If Mazzulla is any good, questions about whether he’s really in line to replace Udoka for good will only grow louder as the season progresses. Perhaps the plan is to finally part ways with Udoka forever anyway. Either way, none of this is going to go away. The Celtics are in crisis mode. This is an unprecedented situation. They are still a very good team hoping to compete for a title, but there is no way to say that they have not been affected by all this. If they can get through it, well, that’s the challenge.

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